Hard Start, Backfiring, Rough idle - Please Help!

Hard Start, Backfiring, Rough idle - Please Help!

Postby HouseOfHarmony [OP] » October 24th 2011, 4:58pm

Since the temperatures have started dropping over the last few weeks, my 95 Astro RWD (190,000k+) has become progressively harder to start, and once I get it turned over it idles rough, and when started cold it backfires if I press hard on the gas (going up hills, accelerating to over 35 or 40 from a stoplight, etc.) It started off with having to hold the key forward for a few extra seconds to get the motor to turn over, but twice now I have had to jump start the van to get it to start. Here is a list of symptoms to help diagnose the problem:

1) After sitting for any period of time (running into the gas station or grocery store is long enough), when I put the key in accessory position, the battery meter reads in the red, just above 9, and the radio clicks repeatedly, like the power is being quickly turned on an off over and over again.
2) As soon as the motor kicks over, the battery meter rises straight to 14, and remains there while the van is on.
3) If the van is started cold, the backfiring is very pronounced when accelerating quickly, but I can stop it by letting off on the gas. The backfiring isn't very loud, it's more like popcorn in the microwave. It goes away by the time I get about a mile from my house.
4) The rough idle is only noticeable at stop lights, not while coasting, and gets much better by the time I get to where I'm going, but it still idles rough when I park.
5) Directly after shutting the motor off, if I put the key in accessory position, the battery meter reads 12.
6) The two times I have had to jump start the van were after trying multiple times to get the van to crank over, and as soon as the terminals were connected the battery meter jumped up to 12 and it started after two or three cranks with little hesitation.

My wife and I are both disabled and live check-to-check, so we can't afford to take the van to a shop. I have an acquaintance that is a Chevy fleet mechanic that works on Astros and Ventures that will do the work for dirt cheap, but he is terrible with diagnosis and we can't afford to play the "replace 20 different parts until it runs" game. I wanted to get the advice of some Astro/Safari veterans to see if anyone had an idea of a good place to start.

Please, please help! I have searched this forum and Google extensively and I can't seem to find anyone who had the same symptoms and posted what they did to fix it.

:ty: HouseOfHarmony
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Re: Hard Start, Backfiring, Rough idle - Please Help!

Postby Rey » October 24th 2011, 6:53pm

Sounds to me like your battery is dying. Rough idling and backfiring when accelerating tells me the ignition system isn't getting enough power.

Have you tried using a different battery? I'd say you should just get a new one.
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Re: Hard Start, Backfiring, Rough idle - Please Help!

Postby paintdrying » October 24th 2011, 7:58pm

Welcome aboard. I would hope you will stick around and enjoy the forum after we get your minor problem solved. Since your income is limited what you need to do is drive to an auto parts store near your house and have them check your charging system. They may even take your battery out , charge it and test it. All for free.
Sounds to me like your battery is on its way out, as previously mentioned, these ignition systems need full power to function properly. A new battery is around 100 dollars-US.
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Re: Hard Start, Backfiring, Rough idle - Please Help!

Postby Jasen » October 24th 2011, 8:41pm

You can get one of those budget recon battery's for about 1/2 the price if your battery is toast. They only warranty them for a year, but that would give you time to get a better one.
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Re: Hard Start, Backfiring, Rough idle - Please Help!

Postby 88astroLT » October 24th 2011, 9:21pm

Be sure to also check your plugs, wires, cap, rotor, and fuel filter.
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Re: Hard Start, Backfiring, Rough idle - Please Help!

Postby HouseOfHarmony [OP] » October 26th 2011, 5:21pm

Partial good news - the battery WAS bad, replaced it and now it starts first crank every time. The bad news, however, is that it's still having the rough idle and backfiring when started cold. Today was about 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and it backfired badly and hesitated all the way to the gas station about a mile from my house, where I let it idle while I went in for my morning beverages. When I got back in it, the rough idle was gone, and it didn't hesitate or backfire again for the other 3 miles to work.

So, I'm not stuck getting jump starts or wondering if I can get where I'm going reliably, but obviously these problems will just get worse if I don't take care of them. With affordability being the number one priority, where should I start? I've read that you have to take the doghouse off to do basically anything ignition-related, so if I have to pay a shop, I'd like to do as much as I can in one shot. Please advise!

:ty: HouseofHarmony
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Re: Hard Start, Backfiring, Rough idle - Please Help!

Postby Rey » October 27th 2011, 11:33pm

Your owners manual should detail the procedure of removing the doghouse. If you don't have a manual, there are copies available in the forum.
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Re: Hard Start, Backfiring, Rough idle - Please Help!

Postby HouseOfHarmony [OP] » November 9th 2011, 6:48pm

Update:
It's getting worse the colder it gets. Now when I start it, it hesitates very badly and wants to stall, and sometimes I have to give it a little gas to keep it going. The rough idle has become nearly constant. I have been letting it warm up for 5 or 10 minutes to try to wait out the rough idle and backfiring issues, but it doesn't really seem to help any more. Twice now it has stalled while accelerating. By the time I get where I'm going, it seems to stop backfiring, at least for the most part, but it has definitely gotten a lot worse over the last two weeks.

I'm at my wit's end, as we don't have the money for a lot of major repairs, I have no tools and simply am not physically capable of doing any real repairs myself. The shop mechanic I spoke with said that I could spend $400 bucks on a complete tune-up and that might not fix it, and that they would have to do "a bunch" of tests to figure out the problem. The shop wants $65 to diagnose it, is it worth it? I'm worried we're going to spend the money and they're not going to be able to figure it out, then we're just out the money and no closer to fixing the problem.

I've read so much about this and it seems like there are a thousand things that can cause backfiring and rough idle, is there any way to cheaply test a few things myself to help narrow it down? Would taking it to AutoZone and pulling the engine codes help?

Thanks in advance for your help. I know that I'm not the typical poster here who tears apart his engine every other week, but I figured this place would be a good place to ask some questions that might point me in the right direction.

:ty: HouseOfHarmony
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Re: Hard Start, Backfiring, Rough idle - Please Help!

Postby Phantom » November 9th 2011, 7:08pm

A clogged fuel filter can cause stalling , rough idle , and hesitation, fuel pump can can do the same , Spark plugs , plug wires, EGR valve , vacuum lines , bad gas , water in gas, weak alternator etc .
Coolant temp sensor could be going bad telling the PCM the wrong signal voltage causing the PCM to send wrong fuel mixture

Worn /bad dist cap and rotor can cause rough running, these things except for the fuel pump don't require much effort ,,depends on what you mean by not being able to do repairs your self .

A real-time OBD diagnostic scan , on with live data will tell you a great deal ,, costs about an hours labor charge and most shops will deduct that from repair price if they do the work ,, I suggest this not only so you know what is going wrong , but also so you have proof in written form of what is happening in your system ; so a mechanic will not be able to lie to you about things , not all shops use a printer for data results , be sure to ask the shop if they can freeze frame data results and save to a file , or print out results
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Re: Hard Start, Backfiring, Rough idle - Please Help!

Postby MystiRyder » September 24th 2014, 10:19pm

HI,
I have a 2000 GMC Safari van and I am having similar issues with it. It is literally like it has seizures after it sits overnight and I try to drive it the next morning. When I start it in the morning it sometimes does not want to start right away.Then when I try to drive it , it jerks , spits and sputters , and backfires. It does not want to go. After a little while though it will drive perfectly fine. We took it to a mechanic and the plugs and wires were changed, the battery, the fuel pump and fuel filter, the air filter, throttle positioning sensor, distributor cap , and motor mounts were replaced. The distributor was checked and the issue has not been fixed. It still spits and sputters when it sits awhile. It seems the issue is similar and I was wondering if you have found out what your problem was. It has baffled my mechanic and myself and husband because it only happens in the morning or if I dont drive it for awhile and then after its seizure it runs GREAT!
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